The anticipated summer opening of the Boston Public Market will cap many years of planning and hard work from countless individuals and by public and private organizations. Showcasing farmers and food producers from Massachusetts and the region, the market will become a centerpiece of the local food movement, helping to keep Massachusetts agriculture on its current upward trend.
The latest data from the United States Census of Agriculture continues to be positive for the Bay State. Nationally the U.S. witnessed a decline in agriculture from 2007 to 2012; however, Massachusetts was one of the few states that experienced a 1% growth in both number of farms and acres in farmland. Massachusetts’ 7,755 farms help to protect over 523,000 acres of open space to produce more than $492 million in agricultural products annually.
Massachusetts’ agricultural success is wide spread. The Bay State ranks 5th in the nation for direct market sales at nearly $48 million, and 3rd in the nation for direct market sales per farm. Direct market sales account for 10% of the state’s total sales of agricultural products. Massachusetts ranks 6th in the nation for number of farms with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); a 95% increase since 2007. Over this same time period, the state saw growth in agri-tourism sales of 127%.
The Boston Public Market is important to keep agricultural businesses growing and sustainable by providing a year-round venue for direct sales. The market will be unique, selling only locally grown and produced foods and will strive to make the food accessible to all in the community. Vendors will accept SNAP (food stamps), and WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefits. The Market’s demonstration kitchen will bring shoppers together to attend classes with a focus on agriculture in Massachusetts and the region, creative food preparation with local ingredients, nutrition and more! This all bodes well for the future of Massachusetts agriculture.
Grandson of a farmer and son of a nursery owner, John Lebeaux was sworn in as Commissioner of the Department of Agricultral Resources by Governor Charlie Baker on February 6, 2015. After working at Shrewsbury Nurseries, his family’s nursery/garden center/landscaping business, while a student, John then worked for four years as an Urban Horticulturist in New York City. After rejoining the family business he served as its General Manager for twenty-six years.
He is a six term Selectman in the Town of Shrewsbury and is a Charter Member of the Shrewsbury Farmers Market Steering Committee. John served nine years as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Food and Agriculture, and served for nine years as a public member of the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission. Prior to appointment as Commissioner, John served slightly less than six years as Town Administrator of the town of Princeton, a rural north central Massachusetts municipality with an active agricultural sector.